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State Honoree

Photo of State Honoree Kenzie Hall

Kenzie Hall

California

Kenzie Hall, 17, of Temecula, Calif., a junior at Great Oak High School, started a program at age 11 that grants several "wishes" each year to children who have had a parent killed or severely wounded while serving in the armed forces. When their father was deployed to Afghanistan, Kenzie and her sister were allowed to "live out a dream" for a year, "to give us something positive to focus on so we wouldn't worry and have the stress of wondering if my dad was going to be okay," said Kenzie. As much as she enjoyed her "dream" year of acting classes in Los Angeles, Kenzie kept thinking about other kids in military families. "They needed to know the sacrifices they had made had not been forgotten, and that they were not alone," she said.

That concern sparked Kenzie's idea of granting wishes to children of fallen or wounded soldiers. Her first project was sending two sisters on a five-day trip to Disneyland after their father failed to return from his overseas deployment. Kenzie solicited donations from businesses, spoke at several events in LA, and asked friends and family members to help raise the necessary funds. "Seeing Julia and Eva's faces and learning how much a stranger's support meant to them made me want to do even more," she said. Since then, Kenzie has launched a "Brat Pack 11" website and filed for nonprofit status. She holds regular weekly meetings with her board members to discuss future wishes, fundraising events and ways to inspire youth to give back to their communities. Kenzie also has created videos and a blog on her site to share the stories of each wish recipient, and hopes to start Brat Pack high school clubs around the country to spread awareness and further support the needs of young military "brats."